Workshops bring SH closer to its 10-year master plan for parks

sh-needs-assessment.jpgBY NICK DIAMANTIDES
Staff Writer

On June 11, during a community workshop, the City of Signal Hill inched closer to developing a 10-year master plan for its parks. The hour-and-a-half-long workshop was held at the Signal Hill Community Center in the evening hours and drew about 24 residents.
The gathering was the second and final workshop conducted for the city’s recreation needs assessment, which has been going on for several months. Kathy Sorensen, director of community services, explained that the city has been asking residents to respond to written questionnaires and telephone surveys related to the future needs of Signal Hill Parks. Residents were also invited to participate in two park planning workshops on May 14 and June 11.
“The last time we did a community recreation needs survey was in 2000,” Sorensen said. “Our population has changed since then.” She explained that several new residential developments have been completed since 2000 and more are on the way. She added that the city had about 9,000 residents in 2000 and now more than 11,000 people live in Signal Hill.
About 14 people attended the first workshop, which focused on citywide park facilities and recreational programs. “One reason for the second workshop was to go over what we found out through the telephone surveys,” Sorensen said.
The meeting began with a brief introduction given by Mark Sillings, project manager for MIG, the Pasadena-based consulting firm that is conducting the needs assessment under contract with the city. “We’re still gathering information, and it’s a process of finding out what the community is interested in,” he said. “We are finding out what are the community needs and working on the pathways to achieve those needs.”
Sillings stressed that, according to the questionnaires and telephone surveys, most Signal Hill residents are very satisfied with the city’s existing park system. “We want to determine what are the enhancements that we can make,” he said. “A lot of our attention is focused here on Signal Hill Park because, with the police department relocating, that’s creating an opportunity to make some improvements here.” He explained that suggestions received so far include expanding the library, building a museum, more open space and more parking.
“Some people are more interested in the north slope (of the hill) and maintaining that as a natural area,” Sillings added. “Of course there is a financial question as to whether that is feasible or not.”
Pamela Wooldridge, president of Research Network Ltd. (the Washington-based company that conducted the telephone surveys for MIG) also spoke to the audience. She explained that 300 Signal Hill households responded to the surveys and her company used a scientifically proven method to ensure that a representative sample of the city’s population was reached.
“There is a lot of information contained in the telephone survey,” Wooldridge said. During her approximately 20-minute Powerpoint presentation, she pointed out that one of the most important things discovered through the survey was that many residents want to have a central meeting place where they can socialize and currently that place seems to be Signal Hill Park. Many of those same residents also want improved amenities in the park, Wooldridge said.
After Wooldridge’s presentation, Sillings told the audience, “Now that you have heard what we have been hearing so far, we are going to shift gears and get some more information from you.” He pointed to maps on the tables and asked the participants to form into three smaller groups to come up with suggestions for how the city should alter Signal Hill Park in the next decade.
The groups came up with a long list of suggestions that included moving City Hall to a new civic center, adding a multi-generational center at the community center, adding more green space, adding a water feature, and building a dog park.
More than 100 questionnaires have been answered so far, and residents have until July 11 to fill them out. Questionnaires are available online at or as hard copies at City Hall and the library.
“We want to hear from everybody who has an opinion on what the city should do with its parks and recreation programs,” Sillings said. In a few weeks, MIG staff will combine data gathered from the written and online questionnaires, the telephone surveys and the two workshops in order to prepare a needs-assessment report, which will take several months to complete. That report will be presented first to the Signal Hill Parks Commission and then to the city council in October or November.

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